As many of you know, it’s been a long and dark road for the poet laureate program of Kansas in the last six months. In fact, the road has turned to gravel, then completely unpaved itself, and at times disappeared altogether. So now that I’m finding my way and seeing where to step next to keep this program alive, including doing a whole lot of fundraising from my front porch, I’ve been waking up more prone to elation than governmentally-induced despair.
How the program and I got here has been detailed in other posts and news reports, but in a nutshell, once the governor of Kansas laid off the employees of the state arts agency, shut the office and line-item vetoed the funding, this program slipped into limbo. The poet laureate program had been a project of the state arts agency for years. In recent months, I’ve been researching and presenting, writing proposals and plans, meeting with people and organizations, all to find a new organizational home for the program. My hope is that something solid will be in place within the next season or two, and then I can work with others to put out the word for applications for the next poet laureate to begin my terms ends next July.
Along the way, I also worked with others on designing a fundraising campaign, which launched last Wednesday, to raise as much of the $5,000 budget for this program as possible. Using indiegogo.com, an internet-based fundraising site, along with photos contributed by friends and family, I put together a video and all the words to try to convey what’s needed and why.
When I first hit the “go live” button on the site, I was a little afraid. What if no one responded? What if people felt the arts really were secondary to other needs (which are also vast)? My fears were also rooted in the nervy reality that I was raising my own funds since what is raised will reimburse me for mileage, expenses, and give me a small stipend for the many hours (tripled this year, it seems) I put into the poet laureate work. I took a breath, downed some tea, and hit the button.
Within an hour, I was sitting in my driveway at home, checking my email briefly, wondering if anyone answered the call. I was surprised, happily, by the donations — $17 here, $40 there, and what looked like $100, but when I looked closer at the indiegogo page, I realized this donation was actually $1,000. This is when I started crying.
Within a few days, the campaign met its first-stage goal of $1,500, and as of now, it’s nearing $1,782 with some additional checks coming in the mail. I’m overwhelmed with gratitude, and flooded with a sense of value for this work of keeping this position alive. Thank you, friends, family, acquaintances who have given or will give, and let’s hear it for how much Kansans and friends of our state care about the power of words.